Portugal’s Dangling Revolution

Portugal’s Dangling Revolution

For a brief, involuntary moment, while traveling to Portugal’s Estoril beach, we joined the revolution—or was it the “counterrevolution”? It wasn’t easy to tell.

Rates on the suburban railroads had been raised by 30 percent to meet the railway workers’ wage increase of over 20 percent, and the passengers—mostly suburban housewives, returning from a day’s shopping in Lisbon, and commuting workers—were protesting. They neither held tickets nor were they prepared to pay. As the conductor approached us, the passengers began to shout at him; he smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and turned away. We enjoyed a round trip to Estoril without paying the fare. The Communist-dominated railway workers’ union denounced the action as “counterrevolutionary”; who was right?

So goes Portugal’s confused, dangling, often chaotic “revolution,” and so goes Portugal’s sinking economy as expenditures outstrip income. In the end, the fate of the revolution will be determined by the fate of the economy. Now, neither is thriving. Not one of the experienced political leaders or sophisticated intellectuals to whom we spoke dared venture a prediction.

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tote | University of California Press Lima